Palmetto Senior High rising senior Milena van der Reis is co-captain of the undefeated girls’ tennis team that took the state title this spring.
“We won the GMACs, districts, regionals and then states in Orlando,” she says. “It was a meaningful win at states because my sister is also on the team. I was ecstatic.”
Van der Reis is the team’s fourth seed and her sister is the fifth seed.
This was the first time in thirty years that the girls’ team won the title.
“Although tennis matches are individual, our team victory represented our collective success,” she says. “All the girls are supportive of one another.”
Van der Reis also won at Palmetto’s end-of-the year awards ceremony. She took home the Brown Book Award. This year, she won the Palmetto Tennis Coach’s Award and Outstanding Leadership Award. Previous years she won the Panther on the Move Award, Outstanding Freshman Science Student, Palmetto Tennis Most Outstanding Panther and Tennis Rookie of the Year in ninth grade.
She’s the incoming vice president of induction for the National Honor Society and she’s a member of the English Honor Society. She’s president of the French Honor Society and will be again next year.
She’s been involved in student council since freshman year when she was class vice president. Sophomore year she was the community outreach chair and this year she is special events chair. She’ll apply for the same position for senior year.
Next year she’ll oversee a community service project that helps students prepare for the SAT and ACT.
“I know that preparation is crucial to score well on standardized tests,” she says. “Next year, I will have the honor of leading a program that will provide prep materials to my schoolmates.”
Her community service includes being a member of the Achieve Miami Junior Board. She began volunteering when Achieve Miami was just beginning. At that time, it was known as the Baby Bulls program. She loved being a reading and academic mentor at Holmes Elementary School in Liberty City. She was still in eighth grade at the time, and she worked to involve her fellow National Junior Honor Society members.
“I helped initiate the board,” van der Reis says. “At the monthly meetings, we exchange ideas to help enhance the program.”
In high school, van der Reis was able to reach out to a much broader base of volunteers and spearhead a program at Goulds Elementary.
As a member of the junior board, she’s involved in programing the high school student-led summer program that will take place at Goulds. There will be several tracks, including STEM, Culinary, Art and Music.
“These (high school) students are the ones who are the most passionate, the most involved,” she says. “They come from all parts of Miami to focus on the same goal of improving a program aimed at developing the literacy skills of our little buddies.”
As far as college, she’s keeping an open mind as to where to send her applications. She’s visiting schools over the summer and hopes to find the right one – hopefully one that is out of state and has an engineering school.
This summer she’ll be in England to study at Cambridge for two weeks. She’ll take engineering and physics classes.
She also spends time at South Miami Hospital shadowing a doctor.
“I wanted to observe robotic assisted hysterectomies specifically, she says. “I’m really interested in how engineering can improve medicine.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld